Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Suborder: Apocrita
Superfamily: Apoidea
Clade: Anthophila

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the European honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax.

 Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea and are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. 

There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. 

 They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.


A European Western Bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen around its legs and nectar. image: R.Conan-Davies

There are social and solitary bees

Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies (bee hives). Some bees such as carpenter bees, leafcutter bees and mason bees are solitary in the sense that every female is fertile but don’t produce honey or wax.


An exposed beehive. image wikimedia/CheepShot

Bees are pollen and nectar consumers

Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. 

Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; the decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.

Sizes of bees

Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres. 

The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. 

What eats bees?

Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.

Humans and bees

Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, through all phases of art and literature, from ancient times to the present day, though primarily focused in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common.

World Bee day is 20th May


Adapted from: Wikipedia contributors. (2018, May 3). Bee. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:28, May 20, 2018, from